Customs close to resolving 'shipper' issue: Bonner

Customs close to resolving 'shipper' issue: Bonner

SAN FRANCISCO - Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said his agency will resolve with industry differences over the definition of "shipper" on international cargo manifests within 60 days.

Speaking with reporters Friday at San Francisco International Airport on a nationwide tour marking the first anniversary of a heightened U.S. security program, Bonner also announced the entry Monday of Port Kelang, Malaysia, into Customs' anti-terror program that screens U.S.-bound containers at foreign ports.

Bonner also announced plans for a similar program to check U.S.-bound passengers at foreign airports.

Customs drew fire from industry last December when it implemented a series of new security steps that among other things stipulated a one-on-one relationship between shippers and consignees on cargo manifests, a provision that would cause hardships for parties to consolidated shipments with multiple shippers and/or consignees.

Top officials at the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, agreed to delay implementing the provision until they and freight interests could reach a consensus.

"We're making good progress," Bonner said Friday, though he did not offer details of any new provision. He added that commercial considerations must be balanced with the need to guard against terrorist threats.

Kelang will join 17 other Asian, European and African ports participating in Customs' Container Security Initiative that assigns U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents to inspect containers waiting to be loaded aboard ships sailing to the United States. Under bilateral, reciprocal agreements CSI-participant countries have their customs inspectors stationed at U.S. ports, and a number of countries post agents at foreign airports and on inbound international flights, he said.

Bonner termed "interesting" the idea of having freight intermediaries, warehouse operators and other neutral third parties perform cargo security examinations and report their findings to Customs, a proposal circulated in a white paper by the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America. Not having seen the paper, "I can't tell whether Customs and Border protection would endorse it," he said.